Sunday, July 27, 2008

Did Delia Take the TARDIS to a Rave?

It's old news by now, but that's never stopped The Typing Monkey before. It seems that Delia Derbyshire, one of the pillars of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, and the woman who turned Ron Grainer's Dr. Who score into one of the coolest TV show themes ever, made a recording in the mid to late 1960s that is essentially a blueprint for techno. Read all about it here.

Given that other electronic music pioneers have gotten or are getting the documentary treatment, it seems that films of Derbyshire and Radiophonic Workshop pioneer Daphne Oram are long overdue. Really, given Oram's fascinating life, a biopic seems like low-hanging fruit.

In the meantime, here is a too-short video of Derbyshire showing how to build an electronic beat using reel-to-reel loops:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

European Space Program

Elaste Vol. 2: Space Disco

Tom Wieland, of digital-dub outfit 7 Samurai and techno-soul band Panoptikum, put together this worthy follow up to DJ Mooner's excellent inaugural Elaste collection.

Roaming the expanse of cosmic/space disco, Wieland concentrates on early '80s Euro soul -- a sound rooted in the brisk funk of prime '70s American disco but reaching toward futuristic grooves with the help of analog synthesizers where the horns and strings would normally be.

The mix opens strong with five solid disco workouts. But Elaste 2 gets really interesting at track six, "Sundance." The song, by Curt Cress, a German session drummer with a primarily jazz and prog-rock résumé, feels like a drum battle in which only one of the combatants is human.

Another workaday musician, English library composer Alan Hawkshaw, makes a good showing with "The Speed of Sound" -- a muscular bit of '70s cop-show funk that surges forward on the dual power of a Fender Rhodes and Clavinet.

Please note, The Typing Monkey staff put this mix to the test by setting the office CD player on random. After repeat plays, it never failed to play tracks 12 and 13 together, as they are meant to be.

Those tracks are The Vulcans' "Star Trek"-- a nifty, Moog-heavy reggae instrumental -- and Tony Allen's "NEPA Dance Dub." The latter finds the Fela Kuti drummer issuing a tense, syncopated Afro-funk heavy on the kind of simple repetition that Talking Heads employed.

Wieland manages to sneak in a couple Panoptikum cuts without breaking the mood, but that's not a big surprise given the style of music. Elaste 2 has no real party crashers, though the most dazzling moments shine much brighter than the rest. Either way, there's plenty to chew on here.

Reference materials: If you enjoy the sounds on Elaste 2, do spend some time investigating the Strut label, the efforts of the D*I*R*T*Y collective and, as if we don't hype it enough, the Smalltown Supersound label.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Powerhouse On the Big Screen

Stan Warnow, son of the musican/composer/inventor Raymond Scott, is making a documentary about his father.

The film, titled On To Something, is due to hit the festival circuit in late 2008 or early 2009. If it doesn't make it to your town, the DVD release can't be far behind.

They already gave the doc treatment to Leon Theremin, Robert Moog and Bruce Haack -- a Scott doc was long overdue.

Unfamiliar with the music of Raymond Scott? You only think you are. And yes, although the man died in 1994, he has a MySpace page. Sigh.

Bonus music-movie news: A Death in the Life of Joe Meek is making the festival rounds now.

[Raymond Scott news item courtesy of Earplug.]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


We could waste time defending the notion that DJs -- specifically those nimble-fingered men and women called "turntablists" -- can be considered musicans, and that a couple record players and a cross-fader are the instruments these people use to create new music from existing works.

It's clear where The Typing Monkey stands. Few, if any, who remain skeptical will change their minds. But perhaps DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist might convince with their third collaborative project, The Hard Sell.

Two DJs. Eight turntables. Four mixing decks. One echo box. Two looping pedals. And the source material comes entirely from 7" 45 rpm singles. No computers, digital editing, or pre-programming.

If you are reading this before July 27, 2008 and live on the West Coast, you have a few chances to catch the show.

If you've missed it, there's a DVD, a CD and for super geeks, a toy robot. Yes, a robot.

Here's the instructional video that starts off every performance of The Hard Sell. Dig it:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Now You Has Punk

If you missed this:

You can read more about it all over the interwebs, including here, here and here. [Scroll down to the 3 p.m. entry in that last link.]

The Typing Monkey's most favoritest person in the whole wide world said: "If they weren't already my favorite band, they would be now."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Llama Barn Is Empty

[Yet another full disclosure: S.L. Kreighton, publisher of The Typing Monkey, may or may not have worked as a cleaner alongside Das Llamas' drummer, Thomas Burke, when Mr. Burke possibley worked as a security operative on the property of prominent Seattle family.]

Sigh. Seattle quartet Das Llamas has disbanded. Just after the release of their second LP, Class Wars: K-12. Here's some details from the press release:

"Frontman Kerry Zettel will continue work with his band See Me River, whose new album, Time Machine, is due to drop on August 26 via Aviation Records & Don’t Stop Believin’ Records. [Zettel co-owns Aviation, which also released Das Llamas' recordings. -- ed.]

Das Llamas evolved out of singer/bassist/keyboardist Zettel’s collaboration with guitarist/keyboardist Shawn Kock, beginning in 1999. The duo teamed up with Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Nick DeWitt and Nathan Johnson to form Beehive Vault, and from that band’s quickly-produced ashes arose stabmasterarson.

Named for Chris Rock’s character in CB4, this incarnation of Zettel and Kock’s project saw the release of two EPs and, at the departure of their original drummer and the addition of Thomas Burke behind the kit, would eventually become Das Llamas. Aaron Everett joined the trio in early 2007 and the band recorded its first album."


Now bands break up all the time, and life goes on. But the fact that some of our readers won't have the opportunity to see Das Llamas live -- where the band's true power blossomed -- is the real loss.

Aside from Burke's visceral drumming and Everett banging away on his guitar as if he were unaware there were other musicians in the room (it worked, really), the multi-tasking of the band's two founders made Das Llamas the best kind of working band: as fun to see as they were to hear.

Zettel played bass or keyboards while he sang, and when he was too busy playing the keys, Kock would stomp on a scroll of triggers to keep bass tones moving while he played his guitar. Any audience member who was tired from dancing -- or sadly, too uptight to dance -- could at least stand back, enjoy a beverage and watch these men work.

A Das Llamas performance wasn't silly athleticism for the sake of showmanship, it was energetic playing in the service of songs that made four players sound like six. They will be missed.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's a Free Concert From Now On

[Full disclosure: The Typing Monkey is related to all four members of Girl Trouble, by blood and by common-law precedent set by the number of times the entire Typing Monkey staff has seen the band -- which is more than we can count.]

SubPop, the label founded on grunge and currently living well on indie-pop and indie-comedians, is celebrating 20 years in business by having a festival in Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA on July 12 and 13. Somehow, the invitation sent to Tacoma, WA band Girl Trouble -- whose Hit It or Quit was the first LP SubPop released -- got lost in the mail. [Wink-wink.]

So Girl Trouble has decided to do the only decent thing -- go to Marymoor Park and play the entirety of Hit It or Quit It acoustically, for free, outside the SubPop fooferah.

Here’s the press release:


As you may know, the first Girl Trouble album, Hit It or Quit It, was released on K/SubPop in 1988. In fact, this was the first full-length record SubPop ever released. The record matrix number was K/SP-20.

This month SubPop is hosting a huge, two-day concert of SubPop bands in Marymoor Park on July 12/13 to celebrate their 20 year anniversary. It’s billed as the SP-20 event, one letter off from the old Hit It or Quit It matrix number. Coincidence? You be the judge. Of course, Girl Trouble awaited the invitation to join their old friends and label-mates on stage for this most festive occasion.

Unfortunately. the band now suspects that a mistake has been made. They have yet to be contacted by their old label! With only weeks to spare it was obvious there was some sort of unintentional oversight by SubPop.

Girl Trouble has never been a band to let a small detail like not being invited deter them from joining in on any celebration. That’s why they have decided to bring some instruments and play the show anyway, somewhere in Marymoor Park, as close to the venue as they can legally get. This will be the first all-acoustic Girl Trouble show, playing selections from their SubPop album, Hit It or Quit It, in order.

Feel free to look for Girl Trouble somewhere in the park (possibly by some picnic tables or a tree) starting at noon, where they promise to entertain anybody who happens by. Unlike the $30 ticket price for the bands inside the Marymoor Park venue - there will be no charge for this one-day-only performance. Please join us on Saturday, July 12 for this special event. Don’t forget your picnic lunch, blanket and sun screen. Complimentary bag of chips to the first 40 K/SP-20 attendees. Hope to see you there!


To SubPop's credit, they've posted the band's press release on their site. But, really, SubPop?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Better By Half

Given some of the song titles, it's not hard to imagine Munk's tunes as the soundtrack to an obscure fantasty film with a cult following. "Monopteros", "Psycho Magic" and "The Knights of Heliopolis" all inspire images of occult worlds where the barrier between technology and witchcraft is permeable.

That's especially true of the final cut ("Knights …") which begins with the same rigid kick drum that powers most of Cloudbuster. But the damp electronics and Mellotron-like flutes signal altered states of consciousness. A brief celebratory break with hi-hat and disco bass eventually decays into one final minute of rattling drone.

If this were an actual LP, side two beats side one, no contest. The two opening tracks -- "Live Fast! Die Old!" and "Down in L.A." indulge in the kind of coarse, nightlife-posturing that inspires scoffs from those who think electronic dance music is nonsense.

Guest vocalist Asia Argento doesn't do anything interesting during her three appearances. Matty Safer of The Rapture makes a better showing by playing bass on two songs -- his work in "The Rat Race" nails down a rhythmic strut reminiscent of Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love."

Despite the 1:1 ratio of compelling to ho-hum, there's enough to Cloudbuster, Munk's second full length, to prompt The Typing Monkey to check out his 2006 debut LP Aperitivo.

Reference materials: Though there isn't an obvious musical correlation, for some reason the second half of Cloudbuster brings to mind the work of both David Shire and Alain Goraguer.

Bonus fun facts: Clearly Mathias Modica, the man behind Munk, cherry picks his references from the best of mythology both modern and ancient. Check out the Wikipedia entry for Heliopolis and then look at this picture of a monopteros in a park in München.